‘The clock is ticking’ - popular community venue launches crowdfunder for survival

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‘We need the donations to survive and still be here in the summer’

A community cafe on the outskirts of Bristol has launched a GoFundMe crowdfunder for survival due to the rising energy costs. The Willsbridge Mill Community Refresh cafe at Willsbridge near Longwell Green opened in 2014 and is a popular venue for families and dog walkers.

A voluntary non-profit organisation, it was set up to pay for new trees in the surrounding woodland and clean the graffiti in the area. But as a seasonal attraction, the non-profit venue has found the winter a struggle after a successful summer that included several events including a music festival.

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Although the site is run by volunteers, staff in the cafe are paid a wage but the rising energy and food bills have hit the venue hard.

The GoFundMe crowdfunder page just launched by Willsbridge Mill Community Refresh cafe has a target of £5,000 and co-director Tom Baker says the clock is ticking for the cafe’s survival this winter.

“We had a good summer and we were growing as a business but winter has hit us quite bad because the bills have gone up and all the money we made has carried us through but there aren’t any reserves.

“We’re now VAT registered so we have a VAT bill and we have staff who we pay but profit-wise we’re running at a loss which is unsustainable. We’ve just been hit with a £6,500 energy bill for six months so it’s going to be a £13,000 bill for the year and we’re running at a loss already - it’s tough.”

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Willsbridge Mill at WillsbridgeWillsbridge Mill at Willsbridge
Willsbridge Mill at Willsbridge | Willsbridge Mill

Tom says the reason the cafe exists is solely to give back to the community but as a free-to-enter venue, it relies on the cafe to pay for everything else.

He said: “We are a free venue so people who walk their dogs come in and we open five days a week so people can come and have a tea or coffee. That generates income which we can reinvest.

“But because it’s totally free, people come to us for a free day out, which is great, but we’re very seasonal and there’s no admission cost like at National Trust places, for example.”

Tom hopes the donations on the crowdfunder will help to pay for the energy bills until business picks up in the spring.

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He said: “The £5,000 would act as a buffer for the energy bills. It’s just to survive through to March and April when it will pick up again because of the weather.

“The clock is ticking but in terms of a sustainable business, we’re not even that at the moment. We need the donations to survive and still be here in the summer.”

To donate, go to the crowdfunding page here.

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